An interview with Khaya, Leah, and Emily of Moon Kissed
Moon Kissed has become a staple band in New York City’s current underground scene. As I interviewed artists, their name kept coming up and finally I decided I had to go see them live and talk with them to see what all the hype was about.
Having done that, I can say they’re deserving of all the praise: their live show is electrifying, and the bandmates have a bond and love of performing that’s contagious to watch and listen to. I sat down with the band backstage at one of their concerts in the Lower East Side to talk about how they went from friends to bandmates, getting shows around the city, and what feminism means to them.
How did you three decide to form a band together?
Emily: So, me and Khaya met in high school and we did music for a really long time and then we met Leah at the New Year’s party. I go to New School and so does Leah, and I was like, “Leah, you’re dope at drums!” “You’re dope at vibraphone, let’s be friends!” I was like, “Wait, join our band, this other girl looks exactly like us, we have the band”. So we did it and we’re a band now.
Leah: Yeah, the part Emily left out though she did say “You’re a really good drummer,” and I was black out, and was really intense about it. “You make beautiful music.” Like, “I love your music,” haha.
Khaya: Yeah, Leah said, “I want to join your band, but I want to make sure you like me.” She did this whole thing, “I have to listen to your music and vibe with it, and you have to vibe with me playing your music” it was this whole deep thing.
Did you guys always want to be in a girl-band specifically, or did it just end up like that?
Leah: Totally coincidental, by accident, honestly.
Khaya: I would say it was always in the back of my head. Because, when I was in high school I thought it was really sick to be the one girl in an all-guy band, like Paramore. So, I did that for a long time and it was hell getting men to do what you want and show up on time and to not be difficult.
So, I think I hit a wall in terms of playing in bands where people weren’t giving it their all, or being lazy or not showing up on time. It wasn’t necessarily that I wanted to be in an all-women band, I just wanted people to do their jobs and not have to pull teeth every time we had a gig. So, for that reason I would say it was in the back of my mind, not for an image or anything like that.
It wasn’t necessarily that I wanted to be in an all-women band, I just wanted people to do their jobs and not have to pull teeth every time we had a gig.
What’s your songwriting process like?
Khaya: It varies depending on the song, we have a lot of different ones, and we’re just starting now to write all three of us together and that’s really exciting.
I’d say a lot of them, I think I started to produce on my computer, or with our friends, or Emily started and I wrote lyrics to it. Or Emily and I wrote a long time ago and we’re just revisiting them now.
Those are the ones that feel really special since those are the ones we wrote when we were hungover in high school or early in college and we’re refining them with the maturity and knowledge we’ve gained and making them real songs and productions.
That’s so sick you guys produce and mix your own music! When did you start producing Khaya?
Khaya: About two years ago.
So, this is something you probably get asked a lot, but how was your experience on X Factor, Khaya, and how do you think that has affected your musical journey?
Khaya: Yeah, I think the best things I got out of it were the happenstance of what happened after. I submitted a video as a joke since my friends told me to. Then the video just kept moving up the ranks and then I was in Los Angeles. So, it was very not intentional, I wasn’t like one of those kids who wanted to be famous, I was like, “I like singing, so I’ll apply to this.”
I kept moving up, I think because I didn’t give a f***, I think everyone cared too much. I was just taking it as it came and trying to learn from it and that’s how I learned there’s a whole industry behind—like there’s people producing and A&Rs because it’s like a microcosm of an industry in a very small amount of time.
They did have songwriters and producers each week helping us make these covers, and there was this one woman I met: Simone Torres, a world-renowned vocal producer who did Cardi B. She’s killing it. She went to Berkeley and told me about the five-week program which is where I met Emily. When I went back to high school, I realized I can make a job out of this; like, I don’t just like singing, this can be a career. But besides that, it’s like reality TV, it’s pretty dumb, haha.
How has it been getting shows around New York?
Emily: We haven’t reached out to anybody; everybody has reached out to us.
Khaya: And then I said, haha, we’re not trying to sound cocky, but if you love what you do, and you love who you’re doing it with, people are going to respond to that.
Emily: Yeah, we’ve been fortunate. I was just so excited, like this is great. I think also, Emily and Khaya have fostered a community a bit. Like you guys have been doing this for four years in the city and once you’ve been around and meet people and build community and you’re nice people, things come your way. And then I was lucky enough to walk right into it.
Khaya: Also, we had a pretty deep talk before this. Like, yes, she walked into it, but I don’t think this band would have been what it is without her.
What does feminism mean to you guys?
Leah: I think feminism means to me… I remember, like some activists, I don’t remember who but I read it before, have said that feminism isn’t asking for equality, it’s asking for liberation. I’m into different feminists, like Angela Davis has been my guiding light for intersectional feminism and I just think of it as, nothing negative and not a fight, but rather a movement and a pushing.
We’re all humans trying so desperately to get this world to work the way that we all want it to work and I guess, as far as my own life, that has meant being twice as much as you need to be to be a girl. To be a female musician you need to be twice as much on your shit as everyone else because there are a lot of people who are looking for you to mess up and those kinds of things.
And it’s not a negative thing, it really can drive you to excel and to reach your fullest, fullest potential. If I didn’t find feminism when I did, my life would be different; it has really been a guiding light.
That’s such a good answer, I don’t know—does anyone try to top that? Maybe you can talk about advice on being a woman in the music industry and having the guts to just go for it like you guys have.
Emily: I’m a woman, I do what I do, and I think I do it very well, and that’s all that matters to me. Everyone should just do what you do, do it very well, and don’t let anyone get you down because of who you are. Just f***ing do it. I enjoy what I do and that’s it.
The EP Lost It is out now! Check it out on and follow Moon Kissed on Instagram at @moonkissedmusic for updates on their new album coming out October 3rd, 2019 and their release show at Elsewhere in New York City.